Tennessee electric co-ops provide energy to 2.5 million Tennesseans in 84 of the state’s 95 counties. To keep the power on, we maintain 86,000 miles of power lines. Lined up end to end, our lines would stretch from Nashville to London, England, 20 times.
Keeping these powerlines maintained and functional is not an inexpensive undertaking. We invest more than $28 million each month maintaining the power grid. It may surprise you that one of our largest expenses on average is not poles or wire, but trimming trees.
Reliable energy is important to the co-op and to the homes and businesses we serve. Keeping trees and other vegetation safely away from power lines is a crucial part of our ongoing system maintenance. While some power outages are out of our control – things such as car accidents or lightning – many outages can be prevented by making sure trees and other vegetation are kept well away from the lines.
Each year co-ops and our tree-trimming contractors clear limbs and brush and in some cases remove entire trees that are too close to the lines or near other electrical equipment. They carefully follow guidelines and best practices provided by the International Society of Arboriculture.
“It’s pretty simple,” says Matt Kirk, right-of-way coordinator for Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative in Centerville. “When trees and other vegetation get too close to the lines, it will result in a power outage. One tree could knock out the power for a hundred homes. Keeping them away from the lines is necessary to keep the lights on.”
Proper right-of-way maintenance is a good investment that keeps the lights on for our consumer-members. “To keep everyone in our community safe, our distribution system is designed to cut the power when it detects a contact with the power line,” says Kirk. “We can’t tell if the contact is from a child flying a kite, a car accident or a limb brushing against the line. This means that trees and limbs can knock out the power even if they don’t actually break the lines. If they do break the lines, the outage can last even longer. That’s why it is so important to keep vegetation away from the lines.”
Co-op members can help maintain a reliable flow of electricity in your community by reporting any potential problems you see. It’s also important to be understanding when tree trimming crews are working on or near your property. The work they are doing impacts both you and your neighbors. While most co-ops have the right to inspect and maintain power lines without the consent of property owners, they make every effort to meet with property owners to discuss the work ahead of time.
From homes to hospitals and farms to factories, much of our lives depend on reliable energy. Power is essential to maintain health, safety, comfort, productivity and connection, and Tennessee’s electric co-ops are passionate about fulfilling our responsibility and meeting your expectations.